What is Integrity? A Useful Model

Louisa Leontiades Beastly & Beautiful, Psychology, Psychology-Self

On becoming a parent your world is turned upside down. It’s not only the sleep deprivation and the loss of personal space, but also the constant self-doubt which undermines your confidence (they pick up on that you know). Are you doing the right thing?

Your only frame of reference when you start out, is the way your parents raised you. Either you’re for it, or against it but in any case whatever you think is ‘the right thing to do’, will be challenged from every side. One of your most important jobs as a parent is to teach your children how integrity works. But it’s difficult to know how to do that if you don’t understand the nature of integrity. And if your parents are anything like mine, it is unlikely that they sat you down to explain it over milk and cookies.

My question became how can I help my children maintain something that I don’t truly understand? That I am not truly living myself?

After many investigations I’ve found some models which are useful, but my favourite, and one which shines a different perspective on how we consider integrity and life itself is in the book Transformation by Ron Smothermon. His model covers ten states of integrity – each one describing the extent to which we can be ‘whole’ and how it impacts our outlook on life. He seems to regard the state of integrity as a spectrum. I would agree, but I also feel that you can have integrity in one area, and a lack in another. How they interplay I don’t yet know.

The Ten States of Integrity

We are born with integrity [says Ron] but we are forced, for a time, to give up that integrity. But to regain your integrity is to regain your self and is the expression of transformation. The state of your integrity, the state of your Self and the state of your ‘whole-ness’ will profoundly alter your circumstances and the experience of them. During life you will experience many of these states on occasion  and can pop in for a time at different levels, but you will tend to live in 2 or 3 of them.

The states from the bottom up are ~

  1. Disloyalty
  2. Opposition
  3. Uncertainty
  4. Injury
  5. Non-Existence
  6. Danger
  7. Emergency
  8. Normal
  9. Abundance
  10. Empower

When you were born, your natural state of integrity was ‘normal’. Your expression was one of joy, interest, enthusiasm and curiosity unless you were hungry or in physical pain. It’s difficult to realise that as an adult if we fully express these ‘normal’ characteristics, that very few people would interact with us. Most people would think we’re completely weird. In fact normal was abandoned pretty quickly, in fact as soon as you realised that you could not get what you wanted out of ‘normal’.

As a baby, you learned that the way you got your needs met was by crying. You descended into ’emergency’, where you created a state of unhappiness designed by the mind to manipulate adults into giving you what you wanted. The act of being unhappy was practised so often, that it became real. In becoming real, you forgot that it was an act slipped into the state of ‘danger’.  The fall from grace, from ‘normal’ into lesser states of integrity is inevitable, even if how far you fall is usually prompted by individual circumstance. Most people reach ‘uncertainty’ by puberty and are ready to plunge into ‘disloyalty’ and ‘opposition’ by adolescence. The truth is that the majority, never climb back out.

  • Disloyalty

Disloyalty is where people lie, cheat betray, take revenge, dislike, resent, feel depressed, blame, are jealous… the list goes on. I’ve been in disloyalty for most of my life. Sometimes I duck in there again (hopefully less now). It is oddly familiar and comforting. It is the ultimate victim state. It is a state so unhappy, that it is often characterized by guilt, blame, vengeance, pretense and denial. People find it so difficult to look in the mirror that they pretend to be in a higher state of integrity. One characterized by acceptance, trust and joy in others’ lives. It’s a lie. The only way to move out of disloyalty is to admit that you are there. Tell the truth about it, because without truth, you will never be able to trust yourself.

  • Opposition

If you have been able to tell the truth, you may move up from disloyalty to opposition. The state of opposition is where you argue with the way that life is. It is a state of non-acceptance (hence opposition). You were in a state of opposition when you were in disloyalty, but because you lied about being there, you pretended you weren’t in opposition. Opposing the way things are, means believing that you are ‘right’ about the way you are approaching life and that others are ‘wrong’. But the results you get from forcing your agenda  and making yourself superior by making yourself ‘right’ will not be the results you want. The way to move out of opposition is to admit your old rules are ‘wrong’ and understand the only rule you’ll ever need. ‘There are no rules’. When you realize this, you will become ‘uncertain’.

  • Uncertainty

When you realise you really don’t know the rules (and neither does anyone else because there aren’t any) you will experience a tiny inkling of freedom. And what freedom might bring. It’s a terrifying prospect to be uncertain and to know that mentors and gurus have no answers for you. The only way to make it through uncertainty is to choose a course in life not because it is ‘right’ but because you choose it (some gurus empower, but you are still the one with the answers). The beginning of freedom is choice. It’s about not being stuck in the life you have not chosen. It’s about realizing that you can create your life but that things are perfect the way they are. It’s about starting to be totally responsible for your own life. And for your own happiness.

  • Injury

At this point you will start to perceive that you are the creator of your experience which includes the great stuff and the shitty stuff. Many people don’t ~ and can’t ~ accept this. It’s too painful. They will prefer to live lower down the scale because it takes enormous courage to admit that you’re the one messing your life up. You will still make mistakes (injuring yourself and others) But at this stage, you will start to make repairs and you will attract people because they know you take responsibility for your actions. It sets you apart from many. The way to move up from ‘Injury’ to ‘Non-existence’ is to serve someone who is higher up the integrity scale than you are. Not for the purpose of the relationship itself (do not attach yourself ro greater glory), but for a purpose which is mightier than that. The purpose of moving from the realm of ‘effect’ where you are the victim’, to the realm of ’cause’ where you create.

  • Non-Existence

Realm is a great word if you’re a fan of fantasy, and believing that there is a possibility that you can create your own life should be enough for many to try to grow in integrity (i.e. become whole). When you exist only as a function of your ego-identity this stage will be impossible to attain. It is the first realm of cause where your existence is not dependent on the conditions of your life but is created by you from moment to moment. There is no proof of who you are because your experience of your Self does not depend on your money, your clothes, your body, your friends or anything else. In this stage you dream of being effective in this world, you dream of empowering others but also start to realise that this dream can be your reality. Look around you and see what is needed. Then supply it.

  • Danger

In order to empower others you will enter a land of adventure. At this point you are not safe, because in order to supply what is needed you will have to come out of hiding. You will fail in the public eye. And you must embrace your failures as the perfect stepping stones of your journey. You will create a project which may or may not work. You will set inappropriate goals in your efforts to empower. And you won’t reach them. You will risk what you own. But you will welcome the journey. In order to get to the next level ~ emergency ~ you must eliminate unethical attitudes and behaviours and recognize those areas in which you sabotage yourself. And when you’ve done this your project will become too hot to handle…and you will enter into the state of ’emergency’ (that which is emergent).

  • Emergency

You were here once before as a baby before they taught you guilt, blame and shame. Before you believed that you were powerless. Problems are seen as challenges. Lessons in reality are ultimately the perfect lessons you need at that time. In order to move up from emergency, you need to communicate what you are doing. You need to enroll people to your project, allow them to contribute, stiffen your integrity and prepare to expand your activity. Because you are about to emerge, finally, into ‘normal’…the state of integrity into which you were born. But before you had no project and no awareness to express your ‘normality’. That’s about to change.

  • Normal

In the state of ‘normal’ your project flourishes naturally and without effort. It pays it’s way and is self perpetuating. Your emotional state is one of joy and enthusiasm and your attitude is one of admiration for all people. In normal your integrity is still consumed in handling your individuality in a responsible manner. When you move beyond normal, your integrity becomes intimately linked to the integrity of other people. Life becomes a you and me proposition rather than a ‘me’ proposition. To move up from ‘normal’ ask yourself the question: ‘How can I empower and enable the people I am in a relationship with?’ Become your community. Give a damn about the wellbeing of others as if they were you. They are you, by the way.

  • Abundance

The state of abundance is one in which you are overwhelmed with the evidence that there is no scarcity. Your project begins to pay off in such a way that everyone involved is winning out of it. You become exhilarated and grateful. Life is an enchantment. You welcome problems and your devotion to life is the solution to those problems. In abundance you begin to have great clarity about the factors which produce the results in your project. To move up the scale you do more of the same. Be deliberate, promote, stiffen your integrity, play the game ethically. And empower others to achieve their own ascent up the integrity scale.

  • Empower

At empower your life becomes magical, you achieve results with more or less of a wave of your hand. People love you, admire you and respect you unless they’re stuck in disloyalty in which case you’ll be hated. In fact those people will think you are a con artist (for how else would you achieve the results you do?) As your power grows so does your responsibility. When you reach empower source the mess your world is in becomes your responsibility. You can and do, do something about it. There is room for everyone at the top of the integrity scale, but very few people make it.

Integrity Model in Life

One of the most awe inspiring things about this model is that I can see very clearly where I have been dipping in and out of it. You may have the same feeling. Remember that book you read which gave you new vision and purpose? That might have transported you temporarily to a state of abundance. Remember that job you lost? You were probably thrown into a state of non-existence and it was so uncomfortable that you scrambled to find another to reforge your identity.

Many of the stories on this site particularly those which recount stories of abuse, stem from the bottom two states – disloyalty and opposition. I’ve played out the victim role more times than I care to remember. And given their popularity, I see that more people identify with them than do with the stuff about honest and authenticity for example – where I believe I’ve done some of my finest growth. The strongest evidence I have that storytelling through blogging works as a healing method, is myself. That I have told these stories, externalized them and deliberately distanced myself from them as a third eye means I have detached from them as part of my identity and started treating them as object lessons. One of my biggest lessons to date – my adoption and my consequent relationship with my adopted mother – is also one of the biggest gifts I have ever received. It has provided an unparalleled platform for opportunity (disguised as conflict), analysis and freedom.

But I never would have seen it as such if I hadn’t given birth to my own daughter and been shocked into making the effort not to pass on my own patterns of guilt, blame and shame onto her. She was (followed by my son) my inspiration for all this work. She was the reason I have pushed myself again and again into discarding values and judgements. So how can I help her on her journey?

The brutal and yet honest truth of all this, it seems, is that falls in integrity are inevitable. Perhaps I cannot prevent her fall even as I try as a mother, not to exacerbate it. Sometimes it appears to me that you have to reach the bottom before you can climb back out. You have to experience your own capacity for deceit and pretense to truly know and abandon it. The most enlightened souls of this world are also those who have experienced wretchedness. Eckhart Tolle experienced suicidal depression, was homeless and unemployed before becoming a spiritual teacher. Steve Pavlina was arrested for grand theft in California before turning his life around. Bob Marley grew up in the ghetto and lost his father, before shining his light on the world. Maya Angelou went through abuse and hardship and has become one of the greatest inspirations of our time.

The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively. ~ Bob Marley

It goes against every mothering instinct I have. But I must accept and welcome wretchedness for my daughter, if she is to forge her own way to integrity. I want for her to realize her own magnificence. For her to make that journey from ‘disloyalty’ to ’empower source’. So when wretchedness comes, as it does to all of us (even whilst we deny it in disloyalty), I can give her the models and frameworks that have helped me, at a time when she might need them. I will encourage her to read so that she can take solace and learning in other people’s ideas. I will travel with her so that she realizes that our life is a privileged one and that all people in all circumstances, worry, laugh, eat and shit. I will work to increase her access to education. Most of all I will live by example. I can be courageous in tackling life. I can live true to my own integrity. I will practice honesty with herself and with me.

But I know that first she has to experience good and bad, right and wrong, before she can realize that there are only acts and consequences. She has to know what it is like to be the victim, before she becomes aware that she is the creator.  I believe it is the hardest thing I will have to do. To stand by and watch this happen.